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Travel 2016: 20 reasons to visit Tamil Nadu

By Anita Aikara
Last updated on: January 25, 2016 16:44 IST
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It's time you included Tamil Nadu in your 2016 travel list!

The New York Times (NYT) recently published a list of '52 Places to Go in 2016'.

And guess what!

India's 'cultural core' Tamil Nadu is at number 24 -- it is the only Indian state to make it to the list! 

According to NYT, Tamil Nadu has a 'rich and undiscovered history' and is a 'state where India's major temples and cultural complexes are -- some so large that they're considered mini-cities'. 

Wondering what they're hinting at?

We give you 20 reasons why Tamil Nadu should be on your bucket list this year. 

1. Meenakshi Amman temple

Madurai temple

Photograph: Courtesy Ashok Prabhakaran/Creative Commons

The Meenakshi Amman temple at Madurai is special for many reasons.

First: It is one of the few temples that has received the International Organisation for Standardisation 9001:2008 certification

Second: It has a 3,600 year old history. 

Third: It features a museum that houses 1,000 pillars. Yes, you heard that right.

If you visiting Madurai, a temple crawl is a must.

And when your tired feet give way, try Madurai's favourite roadside drink, Jigarthanda. 

2. Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

Photograph: Courtesy Jean-Pierre Dalbera/Creative Commons

The town of Mahabalipuram is known for its stone architecture -- you can call it the 'stone-sculpturing capital of India'. 

Take a tour of the temples while you are at Mahabalipuram, but don't miss the Five Rathas, a set of temples, which are craved out of a single slab of granite.

3. Thanjavur's Brihadeeswarar Temple

Brihadeshwara Temple

Photograph: Courtesy Hafiz Issadeen/Creative Commons

Once upon a time, Thanjavur was the capital of the Chola Dynasty.

Thanjavur's Brihadeeswarar Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, boasts of stone carvings painstakingly done by the mighty Cholas.

From traditional dance forms to paintings, here, you can experience the magnificence of arts and culture at its peak.

Tanjavur, for the lesser known is also the birth place of naadi astrology.

4. The world's best idlis and dosas

Idli

Photograph: Courtesy Meghan Wilker/Creative Commons

What's a visit to Tamil Nadu without tasting idlis and dosas.

Eat an idli in Tamil Nadu and you'll never want to try the idlis available anywhere else in the country.

Soft and fluffy, the idlis at Ratna Café in Triplicane are served with delicious sambar and coconut chutney.

When in Chennai, don't forget to try Amma's Idlis. Amma's canteen charges Rs 1 for an idli, Rs 3 for curd-rice and Rs 5 for sambar-rice.

You must try the Gunpowder Idli at Murugan Idli shop in T Nagar. Served on a banana leaf, this idli is accompanied with gunpowder and ghee! Sounds yummy, doesn't it?

If you're a foodie, the makkan peda available at Tamil Nadu should be on your list.

The Nawab of Arcot was a huge fan of makkan pedas, and with time the sweet has found its place in Arcot's tradition.

5. Filter kaapi (coffee)

filter coffee

Photograph: Courtesy Charles Haynes/Creative Commons

Forget the Baristas and Cafe Coffee Day, if you want to taste authentic filter kaapi, then Chennai is the place to head to. 

It's all about the right amount of coffee and chicory, and somehow the traditional coffee shops in Chennai always seem to get it right. 

6. Chettinad cuisine

Chettinad chicken curry

Photograph: Courtesy Your Hauness/Creative Commons

According to NYT, 'temples aren't the only cultural hit: the region of Chettinad has more than 50 villages filled with 18th century mansions of carved Burma teak. It also boasts of cuisine that is among the spiciest and most aromatic in the country and often served on banana leaves.'

Well, they're talking of the Chettinad cuisine of the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu.

Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant in Adyar doles out original Chettinad food. 

Popular dishes include Chettinad Chicken, Chettinad Fish Fry, Palikattu Chettionadu, Pepper Chicken and Nandu Varuval. 

7. Rameshwaram

Rameshwaram

Photograph: Courtesy Pablo Necochea/Creative Commons

Here's the place to head to if you want to go on a Ramayana trail.

From here Lord Ram is believed to have built a bridge to Lanka to rescue Sita with the help of floating stones which never sank in water. 

There are plenty of tanks and wells called Theerthams that surround the town. 

You can also visit Dhanushkodi -- situated just 15 km from Rameshwaram -- which is believed to be a ghost town. 

ALSO READ: Dhanushkodi: A ghost town hopes to come alive

8. Dindigul Biryani at Thalappakatti   

Biryani

Photograph: Courtesy nav in al/Creative Commons

Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani -- the name is enough to tease your taste buds.

It is ranked among the most popular and best biryanis in India…need we say more? 

9. Non-veg food at Military Cafes

Non-veg food

Photograph: Courtesy CCFoodTravel.com/Creative Commons

There was a time -- probably during the Second World War -- when military hotels sprung up here.

Tasty non-vegetarian food was served at these hotels, which have made a place for themselves in Tamil Nadu's history.

The food available at some of these hotels bears a strong Chettinad stamp. 

10. Agraharams

Agraharams

Photograph: Courtesy Ravichandar84/Wikimedia Commons

Chennai has managed to retain the charm of agraharams.

Never heard of them? Well you can call them Brahmin settlements or streets that house Brahmins.

Distinct features include a common wall and thinnai -- an open verandah on the outside of the house, and a temple around the corner. They served as a common colony for temple priests and their families.  

11. Hogenakal Falls

Beyonce

 

Photograph: Courtesy Pankaj Sinha

Touted as the 'Niagara Falls of India', Hogenakkal is considered to be a sacred bathing place and its waters are known to have magical curing powers. 

ALSO READ: Hogenakal: The waterfall spa

12. Kanchipuram saris

Kanchipuram saris

Photograph: Courtesy McKay Savage/Creative Commons

Silk sarees and Kanchipuram can be said in the same breath. The latter is the land of silk saris

It was the capital of the Pallava Dynasty during the 6th to 8th Centuries. 

Back in 1757, the city was burned down, but the art survived. 

The saris available here are woven on hand-looms by the local families. 

13. Pichavaram Mangrove Forest

Pichavaram Mangrove Forest

Photograph: Courtesy Aleksandr Zykov/Creative Commons

It is the world's second largest mangrove jungle. 

Not on the regular tourist trail, it is a fascinating place spread over nearly 3,000 acres of land. 

14. Pondicherry

Pondicherry

Photograph: Courtesy Rahul Nair/Creative Commons

It's here that you'll witness a mix of Tamil and French culture -- thanks to its French colonial roots.

This town was a French colony for over 250 years and the French culture and influence is still very alive here. 

A beach town and a union territory, its a lovely nugget on the Bay of Bengal.

When you're here, do visit Auroville, the Utopian community founded in the 1960s by Sri Aurobindo Society. 

ALSO READ: Puducherry, a walker's delight

15. Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari

Photograph: Courtesy Hari Prasad Sridhar

Tourists come here just to see the sunset. It is the only district in India which has both an east and west coast.

The Thiraparappu Falls at Kanyakumari is a must visit. 

ALSO SEE: DON'T MISS: Incredible images of Kanyakumari

16. Ooty, Coonoor, Kotagiri and Kodaikanal

Ooty

Photograph: Courtesy Patrik M. Loeff/Creative Commons

Tamil Nadu is home to some of the most popular hill-stations. 

You'll lose count of the hill stations in Tamil Nadu.

But one of the more popular hill stations is Ooty, which is known for its toy train, tea plantations, cups of coffee and of course, the lovely weather. 

17. Kumbakonam

kumbakonam

Photograph: Courtesy Arian Zwegers/Creative Commons

It is touted as the land of temples, as in a radius of 20 km there are over 47 places!

Kumbakonam was once a seat of medieval South Indian power. 

18. Annai Velankanni Church

velankanni church

Photograph: Courtesy Koshy Koshy/Creative Commons

Situated in the town of Velankanni on the Coromodel Coast, this church has followers all across India. 

People from all faiths visit this church and followers have testified to witnessing miracles happening. 

19. Vellore 

Vellore

Photograph: Courtesy C/N N/G /Creative Commons

A dusty bazaar town, Vellore is home to the mighty Vijayanagar Fort and the golden Sripuram Temple. 

Vijayanagar Fort -- a jewel in Vellore, the 'city of spears' -- sits at the heart of the town, and is a must-see for its grand ramparts. 

20. A movie date with Rajnikanth

Rajinikanth

Photograph: A still from Sivaji

In Tamil Nadu, there is only Boss -- Rajinikanth! Mind it!

There is no better experience than watching a Rajnikanth movie in a theatre in Tamil Nadu surrounded by his fans, who will keep you entertained with their constant cheering and loud whistles.

The experience gets better if you watch his film in the cheapest theatres in Chennai.

Think we missed something? Please share your reasons in the messageboard below. We'd like to hear from you!

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